Are We Expecting Too Much From Agents? Tips On Quality Assurance

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A version of this post was originally published by Jeffrey Newman as part of his series: Quality Quality — Building a Quality Assurance Program That Changes Employee’s Lives and Improves Your Customer Experience. 

They say most New Year’s resolutions are abandoned within the very first month. And it’s easy see why—trying to change deep-rooted behaviors developed over many years is challenging (that’s why they call it a resolution) and it takes a lot of dedication, willpower, and work to accomplish.  

“One of the hardest things for an adult to do is change a behavior.”

Take a moment to reflect on this. If I were to ask the person who knows you best how many of your behaviors have significantly changed over the last twelve months, what answer would they provide? Zero? Maybe one or two? (I’m fairly certain my wife would say ‘less than one’ for me.)

Knowing that about ourselves, let us look at your Quality Assurance program. 

How many formal QA coaching sessions do your employees receive each month? Let’s assume on average five.  

And how many behaviors are typically discussed as those that need to be addressed per session? On average, let’s assume three.  

So that means that in an average month, your employee might be asked to change fifteen behavior traits—that’s a lot.  

But, for accuracy’s sake—and taking into account that ingrained behaviors can’t be switched off on a dime—let’s assume that some of those traits come up more than once, and round it down to changing 10 unique behavior traits per month.  

That’s just one month.  

Multiply that by twelve months and now that makes about 120 behavioral changes you are seeking from your agents a year. Again, even if we assume some repetition across those months and slashed the number by more than half, that still leaves about 50 unique behavioral changes. 

Is it fair to expect agents to change (a conservatively estimated) 50 traits about themselves in a year?

Now, reflect back to the start of this article, and what your answer was to how may unique behaviors you changed in the last twelve months. Zero? Maybe one (if you worked really, really hard at it)? 

So are you really setting up your employees for sustainable success by asking (and expecting) them to change so much when you and I can’t do this ourselves?   

Not really. Instead, you create a situation where an agent may feel defeated at having a growing list of expected changes, without having the time or focus to improve on any one of them.  


Identify and Tackle One Behavior at a Time

This is why I recommend honing in on very simple outcomes from your Quality coaching sessions: instead of a cumulative list of everything that went wroing, find one agreed-upon skill/behavior that went well, one agreed-upon skill/behavior that could have gone better, and one agreed-upon action plan to improve that skill/behavior.  

Focusing on just one item each for what went well and what could have gone better is the only manageable number they (or even we as trainers) can focus on to continue to exhibit the right behavior and improve on another.  

And both components are critical. Quality assurance isn’t just about changing the negative. Agents also need the positive reinforcement to know what they are doing well, so that they can continue to exhibit those behaviors, just as much as they need to know what needs improvement. 

With this understanding, you should begin every formal Quality coaching session exactly where you left off from the previous one; with the behavior you and your employee created an action plan to improve.  

For example, “Okay Jeff, let’s get to our session. As you recall, last week we created a plan to improve the way you’re asking for the sale. Let’s check in on today’s interactions to see the improvements there.” 

If after reviewing the current day’s interactions together, you still don’t see the expected improvement in “asking for the sale”, why would you move on to another behavior to improve? Instead, work with your agent in subsequent coaching sessions until they can improve one behavior at a time.  

Reduce and Focus to See Greater Improvement

Now of course, if this goes on for several coaching sessions, you may need to determine if you have a will versus skill issue. However, I believe what you will find by reducing the number of behaviors you expect your employees to change is a much greater success rate on improvements, coupled with greater job satisfaction due to employees recognizing attainable, positive changes in their performance. 

This post was contributed by Jeffrey Newman, Customer Care Manager at Porsche Cars (North America) where he oversees the operations and quality assurance across their contact centers. Jeffrey’s passion lies in quality assurance, and sharing his eponymous ‘Newmanisms’ with the world (which is what he calls the lessons he’s gathered over his 10 years in customer care) in the hopes of helping agents reach their full potential and ensuring customers receive the best experience possible. He is currently working on his debut quality assurance and training book ‘Quality Quality — Building a Quality Assurance Program That Changes Employee’s Lives and Improves Your Customer Experience’.